The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese.
Many kids are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or video-game console. And today’s busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. From fast food to electronics, quick and easy is the reality for many people in the new millennium.
Preventing kids from becoming overweight means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. Helping kids lead healthy lifestyles begins with parents who lead by example.
Did You Know?
- Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.5
- Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
- Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
Kids who are unhappy with their weight may also be more likely to develop eating disorders and substance abuse problems. Diagnosing and treating overweight and obesity in children as early as possible may reduce the risk of developing these and other serious medical conditions as they get older.
Whatever your children’s weight, though, let them know that you love them and that all you want to do is help them be healthy and happy.
There are always Social and emotional complications
- Low self-esteem and bullying. Children often tease or bully their overweight peers, who suffer a loss of self-esteem and an increased risk of depression as a result.
- Behavior and learning problems. Overweight children tend to have more anxiety and poorer social skills than normal-weight children have. At one extreme, these problems may lead overweight children to act out and disrupt their classrooms.
- At the other, they may cause overweight children to socially withdraw. Stress and anxiety also interfere with learning. School-related anxiety can create a vicious cycle in which ever-growing worry fuels ever-declining academic performance.
- Depression. Low self-esteem can create overwhelming feelings of hopelessness in some overweight children. When children lose hope that their lives will improve, they may become depressed. A depressed child may lose interest in normal activities, sleep more than usual or cry a lot.
- Some depressed children hide their sadness and appear emotionally flat instead. Either way, depression is as serious in children as in adults. If you think your child is depressed, talk with him or her and share your concerns with his or her doctor.
The First Lady launched the Let’s Move Campaign aimed at solving the childhood obesity epidemic within this generation. A big part of the plan involves working with food and drink-makers and educating consumers all in the name of helping parents make more informed choices about what they’re buying.
Another aspect of the campaign is the focus on getting better food in to schools. First Lady Michelle Obama is getting behind a cause that most will agree is important.
“I would move heaven and earth to give my kids all the chance in the world for them to be at the top of their game in every way, shape and form,” Mrs. Obama told USA Today. “Let’s Move operates under the principle that every family wants the same thing for their kid. So we’re going to figure out how to make it easier for them to get it.”
Mrs. Obama seems to be aware that the issue of childhood obesity goes far beyond getting kids to exercise more often. There are important educational components involved, as well as simply getting kids access to foods that are healthier and more affordable than the fast foods that many children grow to view as their primary diet sources.
It will be interesting to see how Let’s Move initiatives attempt to target low-income families, since these are the ones who will likely struggle the most with trying to modify their lifestyles and dietary choices. With this information we can all help our children become healthier people.
There is nothing wrong with a child being a little overweight, particularly if it is not a hazard to their health.
What is wrong is the faulty eating and activity lifestyles, attitudes and patterns that cause obesity and that gets carried from childhood into adulthood.
What is wrong is how an obese and out of control child thinks and feels about food, and about himself.
What is wrong is when a child turns to food and eating to somehow camouflage feelings and resolve emotional problems. In such cases eating patterns become pseudo-solutions for real problems, creating more problems, not less
When children are spending most of their free time sitting in front of televisions and computers, they are not outside running, jumping or engaging in team sports that would keep their weight down. Parents need to set limits on the time their children are engaged in passive activities.
- Limit TV viewing and time on the computer to one or two hours per day.
- Encourage participation in physical activity and sports.
- Curtail visits to fast-food restaurants.
- Provide nutritious, well-balanced, low-calorie, and low-fat meals.
- Limit the availability of high-fat and high-sugar snacks in your home
- Snacks at home: What to add and what to subtract
- Add: Fresh fruit and vegetables that can be taken on the go or packed in a lunch.
- Add: Low-fat or non-fat milk and dairy products, including string cheese.
- Add: Whole grain breads and cereals, pretzels, low-fat microwave popcorn.
- Add: Low-fat frozen yogurt, frozen fruit juice bars, fig bars, ginger snaps.
- Subtract: Soda, sweetened lemonade, fruit punch, and fruit juice with added sugar.
- Subtract: Hot dogs, fatty lunch meats, sausage, chicken nuggets.
- Subtract: White bread, sugary breakfast cereals, chips.
- Subtract: Cookies, cakes, candy, ice cream, donuts.
We must all work together to help our children lead healthy lives. I caution people against playing the “blame game.” Instead of blaming children for being overweight, we need to encourage them and help them to make healthier choices.
We need physical activity and healthy food choices in every school in America. We need better food choices at affordable prices in every neighborhood in America. And we need community planning that includes neighborhood playgrounds and safe walking paths.
Some people want to blame the food industry for our growing waistlines. The reality is that restaurants, including many fast food restaurants, now offer low-fat, healthy choices.
For the meals we eat at home, and the meals we eat out, it’s still our decision what we eat, where we eat, and how much we eat. That concept is part of what I’m talking about with Americans of all ages: increasing our health literacy.
We must teach our children to enjoy healthy foods in healthy portions. As parents, we should never use food as a reward or punishment.
And especially during the summer, we need to encourage all children to be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. Not only sports, but simple things like taking the stairs, riding their bikes, and just getting out and playing.
Children need guidance and support when teaching them good fitness and nutrition habits. Let me share some sites that will help you.
Roughly 1 in 3 kids in America is overweight or obese, but millions more “borderline” kids are on the cusp of a weight problem and need our help just as much. (Picture via Parents.com Turn the Page to read more.)
Nourish Healthy Kids……. Online games teach kids (and parents and educators) about healthy eating. Helpful articles about dietary advice, recipes and goal setting for the entire family. Great free e-newsletter.
Super Kids Nutrition…..This family fitness website offers great downloadable activities for kids to learn all about healthy nutrition. Lots of activitied for kids, meal and snack recipes, and articles that are family friendly.
Moms in Motion…..Family fitness website geared towards moms. Find a community and set goals together. This will in turn show excellent role modeling to your family.
They are yelling and screaming, demanding that it is their turn to use whatever mechanical device may have just rolled off the shelves at the nearest Walmart or other stores. These devices range from DVD players, to video games, to the latest video or other fantastic toy that has become number one on the ratings list.
We ourselves are at fault for what is happening to our children. Some of them are too young to even know better, so it is up to us to watch what our children are eating and how much exercise they are getting. The choices that children make now, the behaviors they learn now, will last a lifetime.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”